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Keywords:

  • thin-film solar cells;
  • thin films;
  • maturity index;
  • review

Abstract

Thin film solar cells (TFSC) are a promising approach for terrestrial and space photovoltaics and offer a wide variety of choices in terms of the device design and fabrication. A variety of substrates (flexible or rigid, metal or insulator) can be used for deposition of different layers (contact, buffer, absorber, reflector, etc.) using different techniques (PVD, CVD, ECD, plasma-based, hybrid, etc.). Such versatility allows tailoring and engineering of the layers in order to improve device performance. For large-area devices required for realistic applications, thin-film device fabrication becomes complex and requires proper control over the entire process sequence. Proper understanding of thin-film deposition processes can help in achieving high-efficiency devices over large areas, as has been demonstrated commercially for different cells. Research and development in new, exotic and simple materials and devices, and innovative, but simple manufacturing processes need to be pursued in a focussed manner. Which cell(s) and which technologies will ultimately succeed commercially continue to be anybody's guess, but it would surely be determined by the simplicity of manufacturability and the cost per reliable watt. Cheap and moderately efficient TFSC are expected to receive a due commercial place under the sun. Copyright © 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.